White Tea first appeared in the Northern Song Dynasty (960 - 1127).The first mention of White Tea appeared in "Treatise on Tea”, written by the Emperor Huizong (1107-1110). A tea connoisseur, White Tea was his favourite and his book included highly detailed descriptions and rules for the making and judging of tea.
In 1769, the first Silver Needle Pekoe Tea was developed and in 1857, tea plants were found in Fuding County in Fujian which yielded a superior White Tea. In 1885, Silver Needle Tea was developed and then White Peony Tea in 1922. In 1968 the first exports of White Tea were made possible by new techniques of growing and processing.
White Tea is one of China's special treasures, made from the youngest and most tender hand-picked leaf tips and buds. These give a fresh and delicate flavour and a snowy/silver coloured brew from which White Tea gets its name. Because of the laborious and detail oriented process, it's also one of the most expensive teas produced.
White Tea is mainly produced in the Jianyang, Fuding and Songxi counties in Fujian Province. These hilly territories with their red and yellow mountain soils, year round mild climate and abundant rainfall, contribute to White Tea's unique character. Taiwan also produces a small amount of White Tea.
The most popular types of White Tea are White Peony and Silver Needle (Bai Hao). White Peony that is made from the first and second tips of a tea stem is the best quality and gets its name from the way the brewed leaves seem to bloom like the buds of the first flowers in springtime. Silver Needle is the most expensive of the White Teas. It is made only from the single tips of the tea stem which when dried, look like silver needles. The tea has a light yellow colour and refreshing taste and aroma. Production of White Tea: A quick summary of the production process is as follows-
Withering: Picked leaves are spread out to soften the cell walls of leaves. This reduces the grassy taste of tea leaves. The best white teas are made when indoor and outdoor withering processes are carefully combined: outdoor withering of the leaves on a mild summer day, followed by further withering done inside. The next steps involve removing of the stems, discarding the natural waxy coating, and slow fire baking to dry the leaves after which they are packaged.
“Kill-Green” (also known as Fixing): Stops the natural fermentation and growing processes within the leaves without damaging them. Steaming the leaves, hand pressing in a hot pan and baking techniques are used.
Rolling/Forming: Leaves are passed through hot and/or cold rollers to slightly break down the leaves, which establishes the shape of the leaves and intensifies the tea flavour.
Drying: Establishes the final moisture content of the leaves, stops fermentation, prevents mould growth, removes any grassy leaf taste and develops the tea's aroma. Sun drying, pan heating and hot air methods are used.
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